YouTube wants to prove that its platform works better than TV to reach millions of people quickly


Tara Walpert Levy Top 100

  • YouTube plans to reiterate its pitch for advertisers to move TV money into digital during its annual Brandcast presentation May 2. 
  • YouTube is sharing results of a recent test with the Google Pixel 3 phone to show it can reach a target audience faster than TV.
  • It’s also rolling out a slate of high-quality programming to appeal to connected TV advertisers.
  • Marketers still struggle with getting OTT scale to match TV’s and proving it performs as well as TV, though.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

YouTube is hungry for OTT dollars.

Over the past few years, YouTube has used its Digital Content NewFronts event, Brandcast, to convince advertisers to move part of their $70 billion in TV ad spending to digital. This year, it’s ramping up the pitch by adding inventory specifically targeted to OTT viewers and putting out research showing its platform reaches more people than linear TV.

YouTube, along with Hulu, is one of the biggest OTT apps for advertisers that want to reach viewers of premium content. YouTube’s pitch revolves around Google Preferred, a 5-year-old advertising program that lets marketers run ads against popular video clips from creators like iJustine, BuzzFeed, and the NFL.

After wrestling with ads appearing near controversial video content, Google-owned YouTube is emphasizing its brand-safe content from high-quality publishers and creators. Tara Walpert Levy, VP of agency solutions for Google and YouTube, acknowledged that demand for OTT ad inventory can trump supply. This year, for the first time, YouTube is selling Google Preferred inventory that only runs on connected TVs. YouTube said more than 200 million hours of YouTube content is watched every day this way.

Read more: YouTube is changing how its priciest ad format is bought to work more like TV — and it could start a bidding war among brands

“We’re bringing a lot more inventory to the table than in years past,” Walpert Levy said. “YouTube on TV screens are our fastest-growing platform.”

YouTube wants to take over living rooms

YouTube is also showing new research it’s done to show advertisers that its ads amass audiences faster than TV ads do.

Walpert Levy said YouTube has run 20 studies with Nielsen using Marketing Mix Modeling, which has helped predict which mediums will work for marketers. Facebook and Snap have done similar work. Today, YouTube is announcing that Google Preferred inventory beat TV in driving sales in all of its studies.

YouTube is also sharing research with Nielsen showing that 50% of audiences reached on YouTube were incremental to TV. It also claims TV campaigns required five times the frequency of YouTube to reach the same audience goals. The average YouTube campaign required a frequency of 2.2 ads compared to TV’s frequency of 10.9 ads.

YouTube didn’t give Business Insider raw numbers for any of these studies, and advertisers might take Google’s self-reported data with at least a few grains of salt. Marketers have long spent billions on TV advertising on the belief it boosts brand awareness and loyalty to a wide audience. Advertisers struggle with measuring OTT and getting an OTT audience that’s as big as TV.

“One of the challenges with OTT is that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum — you want to understand the trade-offs in moving from OTT to YouTube and Facebook,” David Cohen, president of North America at Magna Global, told Business Insider recently. “Trying to get someone that can create an apples-to-apples comparison is important.”

YouTube claims it beats TV for reach

YouTube ran a two-week experiment with Google’s Pixel 3 phone in the fourth quarter that it said showed YouTube beats TV for reach.

YouTube ads typically drive reach over a period of time, but certain advertisers like retailers and film studios load up on TV ads for a few days around a promotion or movie opening and want to know fast how they performed.

For one week, Google just ran national TV ads for Pixel. The following week, it only ran YouTube ads.

YouTube said Google reached 53% of the audience just using YouTube, surpassing its goal of 35%. YouTube also said its platform cost 10% to 15% lower than TV, that they reached more people than the TV ads did, and that the people who saw the ads averaged eight years younger than the TV ad viewers.

YouTube is running similar tests with a couple of unnamed brands and plans to roll out the program to US advertisers in the coming months.

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